No Favoritism

Hello everyone, hope you are doing mighty fine as we enter episode 162 of Ominous Designs. Today we are again going to look at simple and mostly elegant designs, a trend that makes me quite happy. The mechanic at play is enter the battlefield triggers offering a modular choice that will affect both players the same, hence the title.

abjudicator-of-the-law Abjudicator of the Law

Our first card is the genesis of the mechanic. A very straight forward design that might look purely fair even though good players know that giving someone the choice to move both needles 3 life points up or down is actually a great power.
I think putting this on a 3/3 body for 3 mana makes for an excellent limited card.

I hope people won’t complain too much about making a non regenerating skeleton, this one does a good job of selling himself like the knight, immovable deliverer of the law he his.

harbinger-of-the-law Harbinger of the Law

I have a little cute theme going on with the names here. Harbinger holds the second most obvious effect I could find that would benefit both players the same, as well as grant a simple choice of doing one thing or its opposite: draw or discard cards.

I also think that in the right hands, the opportunity to make both players have one extra card or one less is rather powerful.
When it comes on a 2/2 flyer for 3, you can’t really complain. This one was meant to be a specter though, my bad.

manifestation-of-the-lawManifestation of the Law

Bonus round! I couldn’t help but try and apply the mechanic to green, but it made me go to less obvious and elegant abilities.

You can really play around the targeting triggers for this one, and attempt to either make the card very one sided, or plan best you can to get a better advantage than your opponent will. Also note that when played on its own, it can be a terrible -1/-1 spell or a 3/2 deathtouch for 2 that gives your opponent a counter. Not bad on turn two if they don’t have a creature! I meant for it to be a zombie.

Three cards again, huh? Lucky you. Do let me know what you thought of those and if you can come up with similar cards for a cycle. Fun fact is that all of those are two color black creatures, but I couldn’t come up with something that would suit a red black variation.

That is all for today, time to say have a great week, see you next time and play responsibly!

More Simplerer

Hey everyone, welcome to Ominous Designs 159. Today we are revisiting last week’s mechanic and closing the gap with the three missing colors. Let’s proceed, with two uncommons and a rare.

cornered-hellhoundCornered Hellhound

This little guy is the black spin on our popular mechanic from episode 158. I was presented with a choice for black and green cards: either I would simply copy the mechanic from red and white designs or I could introduce a twist, which I ended up going for.

As you can see, hellhound deals damage but not when attacking. Instead it does after having blocked. It fits fairly well a creature that can’t attack very well but is able to block 4/4, 5/4 and the likes. It still takes a second to wrap your head around the way this should be played.

It would be interesting to see how a Rakdos deck combines attacking and blocking to deal extra damage.

hills-wandererHills Wanderer

By now this last entry should be no surprise to you. The green creatures in our cycle will get you some extra life if you attack with them. This should be easier to grasp as a green ability.

As a standalone design, wanderer is somewhere around the power level of Sultai Flayer or maybe more precisely Arborback Stomper. Either way a powerful mid-to-late game beefcake.

There is a fair chance 4/5 trample is actually much better than the 5/4 stomper. I am happy to push the design and see where it lands though, this is my new moto.
Have fun figuring out the dynamics of mixing creatures from two colors now!

stoic-arbiterStoic Arbiter

Now for the grand finale. When I started this cycle, I didn’t think it would be one. Not only I wasn’t sure about what to do with color 3 and 4 but I mostly had no idea what to do with blue! Blocking might in some cases be a blue thing, but neither gaining life nor dealing damage is.

Then it came to me: if I make blue the outsider, it can have its own mechanic in there, drawing cards. Similarly, arbiter will get his bonus only if he neither attacked nor blocked.

I don’t think this mechanic would do too well on cards with lower rarities but it seems fine on a rare. Our sphinx is a nice flyer with more or less protection from sorcery removal.

And that is it for the cycle this time! I like where we landed with it. It seems really interesting to me how it makes Rakdos focus on dealing damage with a combination of attackers and blockers, – arguably the weirdest one of the bunch though – Orzhov focus on blocking and either gaining life or dealing damage that way, Gruul attacking and Selesnya gain life no matter how.

In a set, we could imagine having more cards keying of attacking, blocking, gaining life or dealing damage. That is it for the day though. I hope you enjoyed wrapping up the cycle, I know how we all love our pattern completion. Now’s time to say have a great week, see you next time and until then play responsibly!

Planar Chaos

Hey everybody, welcome to episode 156 of Ominous Designs. This week we are going to emulate what Planar Chaos did back in the day, use known designs and twist them to fit in another color. Also well described as creating cousins for famous cards. Both our designs are inspired by powerful green creatures, so let’s see what their red and black counterparts are.

tarmouth-managorgerTarmouth Managorger

Obviously enough inspired by Managorger Hydra, the horror cousin here is almost the entire opposite to the original design.

How big can you make a 3 drop, knowing that it will steadily diminish until it implodes? That is a tricky question, one to which I decided to give the answer of 5. With flying. Also deathtouch.

Flying is here to attempt making sure you get value until 5 spells are cast, and deathtouch is as well, so that even a 1/1 would be potentially useful.

whisperwood-regentWhisperwood Regent

This one is the also obvious relative to Whisperwood Elemental. I tried to stick close to the original design and create a new way to manifest cards and a new payoff when sacrificing the Regent.
This big guy gives you a new manifest creature every time one of your red sources deals damage, which could get out of hand for less than 6 manas.
When you sacrificing him though, you have the opportunity to wrath the board, given you own a couple of manifest creatures at this stage, close to the opposite to the Elemental version.

How do you like our cards? As per usual I don’t think they are quite perfected yet but they should give you some food for thoughts that you can use to tweak the version you would think is the best balanced, maybe even create your own inspired designs.

I hope you enjoyed this episode anyways, I do like color shifted cards myself. They satisfy that pattern matching itch in our creative brains. Now is time to say have a great week, I will see you next time for episode 157.

Play responsibly!

Breeding Pool

Hello again everybody, and welcome for episode 154 of Ominous Designs. This week I am putting on my mad scientist hat and proudly bring you a Zompire and a Spidrit! What are those you might ask, an air of incredulity on your face and a vague sense of fear taking over you? Well, why don’t we just have a look?

kelh-val-deathless-overseerKehl Val, Deathless Overseer

This, my friends, is a Zompire. As it turns out none of his kind ever saw print before. What a shame.

In substance, a pretty simple mashup of +1/+1 mechanics, related to both the zombie nation – coming back from graveyards – and the vampire family – getting bigger when hitting a player apparently is a vampire thing.

The power level is quite high, but for a 4 mana 3/3 legendary creature, it should be fine. The abilities exist on commons 2-3 drops after all.

lothna-hauntweaverLothna, Hauntweaver

Now I’m introducting the Spider Spirit! First one as well. Quite a gorgeous creature.

I had a harder time, here. It is in fact not easy to find common ground between two creature types that are mainly defined by having either flying or reach. I decided to give pseudo-flying to my spiders so that everyone has some evasion, and tried my best to reward creatures for connecting with an opponent by awarding them new tokens.
I am just sorry the end result takes 9 lines of text, because I really like most of the ideas in there.

What do you say? Would you ever create a zombie/vampire or spirit/spider commander deck? Seems to me that would open the door to some fun combinations. I reckon this is the kind of casual fun that commander players love to build around. You tell me!

Now is time to say goodbye though. I wish you all a great thanksgiving and hope you can relax and enjoy some family and a ton of food. I’ll do that as well and I shall see you next week. Play responsibly!

 

One Hundred and a Half

Hey everybody! The time, has finally come: welcome to the big 150th episode. I have celebrated several milestones and events in the past, anniversaries, contests, various celebrations, but 150 is a number that looks pretty great to me; wouldn’t you agree?

For the occasion, I had a cohost join me during this very special episode: – click on this link to see the full video – Reuben Covington, cohost of Remaking Magic!
We had a couple of activities planned, the first being to create a top-down design from a recently published gorgeous illustration for the new Dungeon and Dragons bestiary book. Let’s see what we came up with.

volos-willVolo’s Will

Top-down design with several people leads to free form brainstorming all over the place, sharing random thoughts and inspirations. We agreed pretty quickly that the setting of the illustration reminded us of a tutor effect, possibly a blue one because of the frost giant.

After some time riffing on blue and black tutor designs and being inspired by the huge helmet in the corner, we opted for an artifact card combining tutor and reanimate effects. Quite a powerful card we ended up with! Nothing too crazy though.

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-12-37-38-pm

Next up: we review 13 designs I kept aside from the best of /r/custommagic from the past couple of years. You should really check out the full video as I can’t really describe its content, but all I can say is this was a ton of fun and a great learning experience. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Those were the festivities for episode 150. By now you must realize that this time it is much more about the live video version than the article, and this might become a trend in the future. Nowadays people are more interested in live streaming and youtube videos than they are in my short descriptions of the designs after the fact on the blog post or imgur descriptions.

As per usual it’s been a pleasure and I hope you will tell me what you think, as well as follow me and tune in for the next episodes, starting next week!
Until then, have a great time and play responsibly!

 

The Haunting, Part 2

Today we are continuing the series we started last week with more cards for the mechanic imbue. This time we are going to get a little fancier. To that effect, here are three cards in Jund colors.

Gloombearer Elemental gloombearer-elementalis basically a fixed version of Gnarled Scarhide. The idea is to bring negative effect to imbue, so that you would imbue onto an opponent’s creature instead of yours.

Not only it is always cheap, but you don’t have to choose between a small creature for yourself and soft removal for your opponent.
Letting it also be a 2/1 for 2 might have put it over the top and I prefer not to take the risk and make it a common instead, for one more Mana.

In limited it should be fairly powerful, though I am not certain how much but I would gladly try it out.

rage-carrierRage Carrier is a very close design, sort of the red version of the previous one.
In recent sets, we consistently have had a red creature which has to attack every turn in. We also had a 2/3 version virtually for 1 mana and with upside in Shadow over Innistrad: Town Gossipmonger.

This one comes with both upside and downside, so we should be fine at the common.
A 2/3 is fairly hard to kill on curve so the downside should be less of an issue compared to the upside which is relatively close to a removal, seeing that this one is targeted, much like Skin Invasion.

greater-moss-hydraGreater Moss-Hydra.
Finally we see both first Mythic and the first triggered ability version of imbue and it is definitely a big, splashy rare.

It isn’t guaranteed that you will gain more value out of it unless you get to attack and control another creature, but that is quite a low bar. Even against a deathtouch creature you should at least do some damage and leave a counter and a nice ability behind. I just noticed that I might need to give trample to the imbued creature for consistency but the Hydra would probably need to cost 7 in that case. Balance aside this is a pretty fun design.

This is it for the imbue mechanic as well as for this article! Time for me to say see you next week and until then,play responsibly!

Evil Sparks

Hello everybody, today I welcome you to an episode of Ominous Designs nice and divisible by 5: here comes number 145! Our big 150 is approaching fast. I set out for quite the topic this week and might even have bitten more than I could chew, though looking at the results I am not too ashamed with what we ended up with. What topic, you might ask? Sparker Villains! Starting with the one who inspired me with that theme, and Magic’s biggest archenemy, Nicol Bolas.

bolas-rising-menace

Bolas, Rising Menace // Nicol Bolas, Planar Tyrant

A tall order, isn’t it. Bolas is quite the legendary foe. I almost immediately decided that he needed to flip based on controlling an opponent’s permanent, to refer to the elder dragon’s favourite hobby: manipulating people. This allowed me to pack a little bit more power in the card since the condition is quite narrow and that was a good thing since I didn’t want to have the card cost a million, or be more powerful that the previous incarnation of the planeswalker.
I wanted Bolas to be big, somewhat impactful, but not a 6 drop either since the card was only his origin story. This lead me to create a 4 drop flyer with upside, which seemed reasonable. For the planeswalker abilities I figured that doing something with stolen permanents could be fun and this would demonstrate the black aspect of Bolas, as well as his contempt for the tools – people – he uses to his own means. The abilities need more work but I like the direction I took, if only as a base.
I doubled down on the controlling aspect with an ultimate allowing you to steal something every turn. I think it is realistic, yet obviously quite powerful.

xenagos-satyr-hedonist

Xenagos, Satyr Hedonist // Xenagos, Multiverse Explorer

Xenagos is our second evil sparker! I figured he would keep his “thirst for mana” style. This was achieved my making him a fairly reasonable mana maker, and requiring 6 mana to transform.
His first ability also is that of old school Orcish Lumberjack fame, still in the mindset of abundance without a thought for the consequences. Xenagos 0 ability was not the most inspired, but I figured it would be nice if he could still bring more people – satyrs – to his party. I switched haste for trample to change something from the original incarnation, as well as make the card slightly less powerful.
I am happy with the ultimate, a one sided Heartbeat of Spring which sounds fun, and hopefully had not been made before. I now realize that plays with Xenagos might sequence a little too well, landing on turn 3, making 2 mana on his own AND using his + ability the turn he flips, allowing to -5 on the next one. Then again, the ultimate isn’t all that powerful so maybe we are fine.

Like I said earlier I didn’t get as much time as I wanted to balance those but honestly for planeswalker we are probably talking hours of work and as many of play testing, so I think for a concept piece the two are pretty fine and fun looking Do let me know your ideas about modifying and balancing them.

That will be it for today’s article, looking forward to seeing you all again next week for numero 14. Until then, play responsibly!

When the Times Get Tough

Hey everybody and welcome again, this time to a 142th installment of Ominous Designs. This week a per – quite – usual, I have come to our episode with a design ready, and made a friend for it. The design in question is a three punches draw spell, why don’t we look at it right now?

Final InspirationFinal Inspiration.
As you can see the concept behind this draw spell is that the worst the situation is, the more cards you are going to draw.
You will always get one, then another if you don’t control any creature, and a bonus one if you are low on life, say 5 or less.
I feel like the low upside probability of getting card 3 is made up by the average probability of missing out on card 2, which allows us to make it an instant speed Divination in two colors.
If you plan on playing control though, it is looking like a very solid card, so you might be excited to see what our second design is…

Final OutburstFinal Outburst.

This one was quite pushed, as you might be able to tell!
Destroying one creature at sorcery speed for four mana of two colors isn’t really something to be excited about, but it can always get you out of a bad situation. Being able to destroy two is already quite a bit better, but is only getting closer to a wrath effect, when you don’t control a creature yourself.
I tend to consider the third effect like a fringe one, but I do believe it still makes Outburst a very powerful card. Any thoughts?

So here we are for the “Final” mechanic. As I mentioned, putting those in similar colors was a deliberate desire to hint at a very powerful draw-go control deck. I do think that if such a deck was a thing the two cards would make it a lot better. I am not convinced they are over the top in terms of efficiency yet though, but only time and test would tell us that. Either way I would be happy to tweak some knobs and make the cards viable, as I’m quite fond of their underlying concept.

I hope you enjoyed those as well, that is going to be it for our weekly gathering. Now is time to say goodbye, see you next week and play responsibly!

The Elite

Hello everybody and welcome to this new episode of Ominous Designs. Today we have a new mechanic! A little while ago I tried to solve the lack of decimals in power and toughness by introducing the concept of a 2+/2+, for example. Let’s see what this means and how I tried to address the issue this time.

Dolnian WatchdogDolnian Watchdog.
A 2+/3+ would have been a creature that twins fights against other 2/3 but still loses to 3/3. This is exactly what Brawler is supposed to achieve. Watchdog is a simple vanilla creature, for all intents and purposes a regular 2/3 but it’ll still win a fight against another 2/3.

Simple, right? This is similar in practice to first strike but much less explosive with combat tricks. Brawler is really only trying to to create to finer scale of power and toughness. Watchdog doesn’t have more than 3 toughness stand still dies to 3/3 and 3/2 which is a little weird but acceptable.

Viashino TollkeeperViashino Tollkeeper pushes that Brawler mechanic one notch further.

Starting at a reasonable size of 3/3, the viashino wins fights against other 3/3 but also against 4/4 thanks to his Rootwalla ability. This makes him quite hard to block. Trample is a nice add for a beefy Brawler such as this one.

Your options against tollkeeper would be a 4/3 or maybe a creature with 5 toughness. To be completely safe you would need a 4/5 which is pretty great for a 4 drop that originally was only a lowly 3/3, wouldn’t you say?

How do you feel about the Brawler mechanic? I like the idea as more subtle combat with low power and toughness creatures. I could imagine a set where most creatures center around a few major sizes like 2/2, 2/3, 3/3, 4/4, etc. I was also thinking there could be a 2/3 reach creature and it’s nemesis, the 2/3 flying brawler. Possibilities are endless. Let me know if you come up with more!

This is all for this week, I shall see you again next for episode 139. Until then have a great one and play responsibly!

 

Shiny Things

Hello everybody, welcome to episode number 135 of Ominous Designs. Today I have two very different cards that have one thing in common: they are gold.

Keeper of ThornsFirst Keeper of Thorns.

I danced around this one for a while. The idea was to enable a Mana dork to produce up to two mana every turn, of different colors and for one life each.
I toyed with the untap symbol but it was too hard to make not broken, as untapping for mana isn’t a good idea.
I also tried to separate abilities with a “only once a turn as a sorcery” writer but that was too messy.

I’ve been very split on the power level of this card but I think Joraga Treespeaker tells us it is ok, possibly even at uncommon.

Xeral Betrayal IncarnateAnd now a huge three-colored Demon Wizard: I present to you Xeral, Betrayal Incarnate.

The main idea was to punish players for stealing permanents but I figured such a narrow ability should come with the second one.

I came up with the idea of exchanging creatures. Xeral now has a lot of potential, especially in multiplayer and it also comes with the danger of hurting yourself, has all demons should. I usually try to stay away from huge Timmy designs but I find myself wishing I could try that one out in a game of Commander. It looks like a ton of fun.

And that’s it for the day! This time I was hoping to have an easier time implementing my creative concepts than is ultimately turned out. It wasn’t so bad though and I’m ok with the results. I hope you enjoyed and that I will get good feedback on tweaking and balancing them.

Now it’s time to say see you next week and have a great 4th of July weekend!